Garlic Mashed Potatoes

4 Russet potatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth (low sodium)
1 1/2 teaspoon mustard
1 1/2 Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
1 teaspoon horseradish
pinch cayenne pepper (as desired)

Chop the potatoes and place in a pot with cold water. Boil the potatoes for 15-20 minutes. Drain. Add garlic, mustard, vegetable broth, mustard, liquid aminos and horseradish. Mash ingredients, adding more vegetable broth if necessary.

Just one more drink…

Overall I am very pleased with the state of my health, as I wrote yesterday, “I’ve probably never been healthier.” Based on three blood tests between July, 2011 and March, 2012 my health continues to improve. LDL levels are down, HDL is up, total cholesterol is down and most recently my Vitamin D now falls in the “optimum” range. Unfortunately my triglycerides are still elevated.

Triglycerides are the fats in the blood.  To visualize their appearance, think of chicken soup left overnight in the refrigerator.  The next morning you find an upper layer of yellowish fat, which has formed over the brownish liquid below,” from the January 2003 McDougall Newsletter.

I began tracking my food intake on January 23 to see what I ate and how it was broken down into calories, fat, carbohydrates and proteins. Along with this data I can track RDI or recommended daily intake and daily value as it relates to the nutrients. I had no intentions of using this to monitor the amount of food I was eating, since this way of eating allows you to eat until full and still be able to see weight loss. Tracking my food has given me a better picture of how and what I eat.

Unfortunately my picture of health still has a blemish, my triglycerides, which started out at 269 saw a 59 point drop when I had a blood test in December, 2011. Now 3 months later I was hoping to see a similar drop, but it was only a 2 point drop from 210 to 208. What could be causing this number to lag behind the other improvements?

There are two common dietary sources of these blood fats.  They can be derived directly from the fats in the foods we eat or the body can make them by turning carbohydrates into new fats (primarily in the liver) by a process called de novo lipogenesis,” says Dr. McDougall.

Based on the numbers I have I eat approximately 10% fat daily. By way of comparison, the American Heart Association recommends (source):

  • Eating between 25-35 percent of your total daily calories as fats, including fats in oils and fats in foods.
  • Limiting the amount of saturated fats you eat to less than 7 percent of your total daily calories.  That means, for example, if you need about 2,000 calories a day, less than 140 calories (or 16 grams) should come from saturated fats.
  • Limiting the amount of trans fats to less than 1 percent of your total daily calories.  That means, for example, if you need about 2,000 calories a day, less than 20 calories (or 2 grams) should come from trans fats.
  • Limiting cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams a day for people without coronary heart disease (CHD) and to less than 200 milligrams a day for people with CHD.
  • For good health, the majority of fats you eat should be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.

I am well below the “recommended” level from the AHA in all the areas listed above. The one vice I still carry with me, beer. I have not given up drinking a 6-pack on my days off, which ends up equating to a beer a day for 6 days. “Alcohol is a major source of excess calories which get turned into fat, so the triglyceride levels in the blood increase. Alcohol also has been shown to inhibit the burning of fat. A 2003 study conducted in Geneva, Switzerland found that alcohol in the bloodstream can slow down fat metabolism by more than 30%. (Journal of the American Medical Association. July 2003).

When alcohol (ethanol) is present in the blood, the liver prioritizes removing alcohol from the blood over other metabolic processes. The liver can detoxify about one ounce of alcohol (distilled spirits) per hour, which is about 1 serving of an alcoholic beverage (equivalent to 12 ounces of beer or 4 ounces of wine). In the meantime, however, glucose tends to be further processed into triglycerides which raises their blood levels” (source).

Without consulting my doctor, who didn’t seem too concerned back in January with my triglyceride level, I am attempting to draw my own conclusions based off research on the Internet, specifically articles from Dr. McDougall. Reducing alcohol consumption won’t be a major problem. With alcohol containing simple sugars, thus empty calories I am taking additional steps, such as exercise and diet to reduce my triglycerides. “According to the Cleveland Clinic, a healthy triglyceride level is measured as 150 mg per dL of blood or less.” With a level of 208, I have some more work to do.

Cholesterol Down!

Approximately 3 months have passed since I saw my family physician and he provided me with HIS opinion regarding the steps I had taken to become healthier. Needless to say, he wasn’t all that supportive, in fact did not like that I was eliminating animal products and decreasing the amount of fat. He saw this as a short term solution to a long term problem (high cholesterol). Thankfully it was diet and no his prescription that got me on the road to health.

Today was just another milestone in that road to health. While I didn’t agree with my physician’s assessment that I was “deficient” in Vitamin D. Based on the paperwork I received a level from 10-29 ng/mL was a “insufficiency” while my doctor chose to call it something else. At any rate he prescribed 50,000 IU per week in order to raise my level. While I stand by my opinion that his prescription wasn’t needed the end result was positive as my recent blood test showed. My 25(OH)D level increased 11 points from 23 to 34, which now falls in the “optimum” range.

More importantly my cholesterol (TC) level continues is downward spiral. Starting from my July, 2011 total of 264 I improved my TC, decreasing it 64 points to 199 by December, 2011. Now, 3 months later I have lost another 24 points down to 175! This on diet alone, no big pharma intervention here and his prescription of a statin was NOT the answer. I am not just 25 points away from my TC goal of 150 mg/dL, with any luck this “short term solution” *sarcasm* will continue to see my health improve.

All indicators are positive when it comes to my health. In all honesty, I have probably never been healthier. My weight is down 33 pounds, currently at 183 with a goal of 175 in sight. I am lifting weights 4 times a week and trying to get 20-30 minutes of walking in a day while at work. Many of the ailments I had are all but forgotten, now if I could only get a straight answer for my knee ailment I would be in better shape. For me this lifestyle change has been the answer, but as I have said before, not everyone is open for this drastic of a change when it comes to food they love.

Fat Vegans

I don’t like being labeled, but it happens daily when I am singled out and introduced as a “vegan” by others. That’s fine, if it makes someone feel better about drawing attention to how I eat, then by all means use your label. Don’t mind me, if I call you fat then, deal? I intended on writing about this topic previously when I wrote 4 Months 10 Days, but strayed my original topic to discuss protein.

I had to call out a vegetarian chef today on a Facebook page. I didn’t want to because his recipe looked wonderful. This recipe was posted on a food blog I follow by a woman who cooks up some great “exotic” dishes. While I have yet to sample any of her recipe through my kitchen, I do follow her to see what creative dishes she is coming up.

Unfortunately vegetarians and vegans can both be fat. I say fat because while they are giving up meat and possibly dairy, they are still cooking and using oil, usually olive oil. Regardless of what you think about olive oil being “heart healthy” it is still fat. Remember, “the fat you eat is the fat you wear.” Thank you Dr. John McDougall for that little nugget. So while olive oil does have heart healthy properties it is still fat in the end.

Now, back to this recipe I read today. It was a macaroni and cheese dish and cooking this from time to time back in my SAD days it was fattening. Just for a comparison a serving (4 in the box) of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (about 1 cup) is 320 calories, of 90 total calories from fat. That equates to 10 grams of fat (15%) of which 3 grams are saturated fat. There is also 15 mg of cholesterol, 900 mg of sodium and 45 grams of total carbohydrates.

This mac and cheese dish I read about today sounded wonderful, but I decided to plug it into Spark Recipes. The recipe serving size ‘6-8’ I was being generous, after adding all the ingredients in the recipe I was somewhat horrified at the results, regardless of how good this recipe looked.

One serving was 543 calories, total fat of 24 grams, of which 14 grams were saturated fat. The cholesterol level, as expected was high, 73 mg, only (and I use that term loosely) 439 mg sodium, while the total carbohydrates were 59 grams. This from a vegetarian web site.

As I said, many of the vegan and vegetarian sites I frequent use olive oil and cheese in their cooking. Since I don’t cook with dairy products or oil, this is somewhat appalling. I can’t stress enough, the dish looked great, but it’s quite possibly even if someone is vegetarian or a vegan, they can be fat and even obese, depending on what sort of diet they are on.

Here is an interesting passage from Dr. McDougall in December 2008 Newsletter;

Fat vegans are as terrified as anyone else of giving up their familiar protein- and fat- centered diet. In their minds, this change would be akin to starvation. How could they overcome the fear and still transition to a vegan diet painlessly? By simply replacing real animal foods with non-animal foods, that look, feel, smell, and taste the same as the original. “What’s for dinner?” Before, the answer was steak, fried chicken, pork chops or cheese pizza. Now, as a vegan, the response is “soy burgers, faux meatballs, meat substitute cold cuts, soya chicken chunks, soy hotdogs, soy mozzarella pizza, and mockduck (made with seitan).”  Instead of animal fats and proteins, fuel becomes vegetable oils and isolated soy proteins. Olive oil and Earth Balance spread replace lard and butter. Glassfuls of Elsie the cow’s milk become soymilk. For dessert: a “dairy-free decadent indulgence (ice cream)” and soy yogurt. Vegetables remain insignificant side dishes, glistening with droplets of oil.

So mock me with your labels, I know what I am doing is right for my health and really what else matters? So I give up some animal based products that are not healthy for my heart. You don’t need to take my word for it, check out the details in The China Study, it’s a rather eyeopening look at nutrition from T. Colin Campbell. Neither is it my intention to get you to change YOUR diet, only you can do that. You know what is and isn’t good for you.

Coincidence?: The Conclusion?

I have a nagging feeling. It’s been with me since I injured my knee some 3 weeks ago. Initially the nurse practitioner diagnosed it as a sprained MCL. A week later, she changed her diagnosis to a torn meniscus. After her mistake of not requesting an X-ray for my orthopedic surgeon, my appointment was changed for today.

I saw this surgeon for my ACL in my right knee 3 years ago to the month. This time around it was the left knee. He showed me the X-rays and what we were looking at. In HIS opinion there was nothing wrong with the meniscus or the MCL or any of the ligaments in the knee. Instead he showed me a view of my knee in the bent position and he said that my knee is bone on bone and I have osteoarthritis in my left (and most likely right) knee.

He didn’t bother pushing and prodding the knee today, which I found a bit strange. In fact I felt like he was trying to push me out of the office. Somewhat uncomfortable if you ask me. I had never had this feeling with him previously. So his answer, BIG PHARMA! Yep that’s right sell me a series of injections (Supartz) to replace the lubricating substance (hyaluronan) that cushions my knee.

He also suggested physical therapy, which I was already given by the nurse practitioner, as well as a series of exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee (quad and calf). Therapy starts next week and I have specific instructions to pass along to the therapist from the orthopedic surgeon.

Even hearing a reason for my pain, I am having a difficult accepting this fact. Maybe I would have felt better knowing something was torn, even though that is a “worst case scenario.” It might be my insurance company won’t even cover the injections, which would not surprise me. Until then I will go along with the PT and see if the exercises I am given strengthen the surrounding muscles and possibly reduce the pain.